HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: Senior Year Interview – Part 1 – Read or listen to an Interview with the Cast

     October 26, 2008

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

As most of you know, High School Musial 3 opened this weekend to solid reviews and huge box office numbers. Since everyone knows about the franchise…this intro will be very brief.

Posted below is the transcript of a press conference I attended with half of the cast. The people there were Zac Efron, Corbin Bleu, Matt Prokop, Jemma McKenzie-Brown, Justin Martin, director Kenny Ortega and producer Bill Borden.

During the almost 30 minutes that we got to talk with them, we discussed tons of behind the scenes stories and also talked about what might be coming up in the franchise. If you’re a fan of HSM, you’ll definitely enjoy reading it.

As always, if you’d rather listen to the press conference just click here. You can also download the audio and put it on your iPod. And if you’d like to watch some movie clips and a featurette on High School Musical 3, click here.

Finally,if you’d like to hear the other cast members talk about the movie, click here to read or listen to the press conference with Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Olesya Rulin, Monique Coleman.

Q: This musical trilogy has been such a phenomenon, how do you all plan to transition to more adult roles?

CORBIN BLEU: It’s all about range. We as artists, we’re never satisfied. So you’ve got to always continue to stretch yourself. I’m focusing on getting some more in-depth roles. It would be nice to truly challenge myself, stretch a little bit more. I’m also interested in just expanding into other art forms as well. I’m working on music, I’m into the studio working on my second album, and I’m also producing. I produced a film with my father called “Free Style” which is about motocross and will be out in January in theatres.

ZAC EFRON: Before “High School Musical 3” I filmed a movie called “17 Again”, playing a 37-year-old guy in a 17-year-old’s body. That was interesting. And then right after that I filmed a movie called “Me And Orson Welles,” more of a drama, set in 1937, about the Mercury Theatre troupe putting on a production of Julius Caesar. So two different roles.

Q: Zac, how was it knowing you’d better savor this because this would be your last one…and are you doing Footloose?

ZAC EFRON: When we were filming “High School Musical,” we took every opportunity to kind of revel in the scenes and dances because we knew this would be the last time we were all together in this capacity, so we were soaking it up. And “Footloose” is coming together, actually. We’re trying to figure out the right way to do it, but yeah, it seems like it could happen.

Q: Will you be starring in it?

ZAC EFRON: Yeah, I hope so.

Q: What will you miss the most?

ZAC EFRON: I don’t know if you can put it all into one specific memory. I think it’s just the environment. It’s been a very safe, creative place for us to work in the last three years. And it’s going to be pretty hard to leave that behind.


ZAC EFRON: I had no idea I wanted to be an actor. I went through high school just like all the other guys. I didn’t really have any plans for my future. This was kind of my extra-curricular and my hobby, and I know various doors opened and I went through them and I ended up where I am today.

CORBIN BLEU: You know, it changes. When you’re a kid, you have grand ideas to become a lot of different things. It changed. I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. Eventually it came down to two directions and it was pediatrician or an actor. Now I can at least play a doctor on TV. I grew up in it, and always knew I wanted the arts in my life. It was just whether it would be a full on career or not, and the time came that I had to make the decision, and I actually decided just to go with what I love doing.


KENNY ORTEGA: You know, we kind of did our best to do each film full-out. Zac says we didn’t leave anything on the dance floor but a pile of sweat. We never came into these movies thinking we were just making a little movie for television. We raised the bar on ourselves, we challenged ourselves every day, we set out to do something special that would some lasting power. I think for “High School Musical 3,” it was special for me in that — I went after “High School Musical 1” because I was hoping that if I do a good job here, maybe this might reveal the curtain on me again. It could be another shot to do a full-length feature motion picture. Little did I ever imagine that “High School Musical” would actually be that full-length motion picture. So for me, moving into “High School Musical 3” was like a real dream fulfilled, so it was just great fun imagining it, designing with it, playing with these guys, but we really kind of set it up the same way. We did have a little bit more money, but we had a lot more lighting and a lot more detail to sort of pay attention to. And we had a little bit more schedule, so we could think a little bigger. And of course we wanted our film to be recognizable. We wanted our audience to immediately recognize where they were and who they were with. We certainly didn’t want to throw the baby out, as they say. We wanted to go for a bigger design, but not lose ourselves in the process.


CORBIN BLEU: I think Kenny from the first film was always very open to ideas from the whole cast and was always accepting our input. I know that everybody had a hand in their characters since the first film. What was great about this third one was that I felt like the rehearsal process, since we had longer time, we had five weeks, we had more to workshop — so really sit down, everybody, discuss characters and relationships with each character, so I think you just saw the background with all these different personalities throughout the whole movie. Of course when you have an entire ensemble onstage, and there’s a certain scene in the foreground and in the background there’s still moving bodies all over the place, and you want to be able to see — just like a real high school — kids intermingling. You pass through the hallway, you’re not just passing through the hallway, you know you have certain friends, so I think we really got a chance to expand on that and get more in depth with that on this film.

ZAC EFRON: I don’t know if I had more say. I think it was more we had two movies as background, so our characters were pretty established. We didn’t have to do as much character building as much as just finishing essentially. And we had the ability to actually reminisce which is what you’re actually seeing in The Boys Are Back. We’ve never been able to do that before.


KENNY ORTEGA: I’ve been very fortunate. I have to say first of all that I can’t do anything without the idea, and we’re sitting with the man here, Bill Borden, who came up with this idea. And the idea is the most important thing. And then Bill going to the right guy, Peter Barsocchini, to come up with creating this world, and the defining of these characters — I’m always looking for a special individual when I’m casting, from my point of view — over the years, I’ve discovered — as a choreographer as well when I’m auditioning dancers — technique is important, experience is important, but I want to know that I’ve got dimension, and I want to know that I have excitement and that individuals that I’m going to sort of put forward can handle responsibility and have ideas and be creative partners, and bring something to the plate. So I can just say that with Patrick Swayze and with Zac I felt that from the moment that they walked in the door there was a real sort of life going on and an interesting individual, somebody who just didn’t want to act but has a life and is going to be fun. Because he’s colorful as an individual, he’s going to have a lot to draw on. He’s also one of the brightest actors I’ve ever had the chance to work with at 20 years old, and he keeps me on my toes. I think it’s about that. It’s about actors that bring something with them other than the craft.


CORBIN BLEU: The final scene in the movie was actually the final scene we shot, which is very rare. You constantly shoot out of order. The final scene of the film being the curtain closing on these characters, on their lives at high school, was very similar. It was art mimics life in this category. We were all up on stage, and reminiscing about these past three years. This was the same stage where we shot Breaking Free. This was the same stage where we experienced so many creative breakthroughs with each other and friendships. I mean it was a very emotional time. I remember we all went back to the —

BILL BORDEN: We had to close down production for a couple of hours. They were all crying. “Put them in the van. Send them back to makeup.” Kenny was crying too.

KENNY ORTEGA: They were all crying. You’re right. It was this stage that so many wonderful things happened on for us, and where it all sort of started for us. And suddenly, the curtain was like literally closing on them, and it was overwhelming, and the entire cast, one at a time, started to crumble, and we had to stop shooting, and Bill ordered the van to come and pick them up and send them back to the make-up trailer. It took some time to get everybody back, didn’t it?


ZAC EFRON: Yes. Corbin was crying. We were standing on the stage watching the curtain close, and this was where everything began for us. Like Corbin said, this is where we did Breaking Free and Bop to the Top, so many musical numbers. That’s where it all started and it was symbolic of our journey. We’d come a long way as Wildcats but even more as individuals.

CORBIN BLEU: And to maintain our manhood, we didn’t cry in front of everybody on the stage. We waited until we got back to the makeup trailer and let loose. Just the six of us that were there, and of course we just broke down. Girls’ makeup was running.

ZAC EFRON: Corbin waited until he got there . . .

Q: For the new cast members, what was it like joining such an established cast?

Matt Prokop: It was definitely scary because there’s a lot of pressure going into “High School Musical 3” where they’ve gotten it to the big screen. They’re definitely a fear for us going into it. We didn’t want to try too hard to impress them or try to be one to stand out and steal from their movie. It was just a lot of going in and learning the role from the guys who made it where it is now.

Jemma McKenzie-Brown: I think it was an amazing opportunity for all of us early on in our careers. They welcomed us with open arms. I was kind of scared about fitting us. It was kind of like being the new girl in school, but I had a great time and I’d do it all again.

Justin Martin: I don’t think any of us knew what to expect coming into the whole situation, but like Jemma said they welcomed us into the High School Musical family with open arms and it was like one big family.

Q: If you could have any presidential candidate or vice presidential candidate play a character in the film, who would it be?

MATT PROKOP: I’d love to see John McCain do Zac’s solo [laughter].

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Q: Any thoughts on a college musical?

KENNY ORTEGA: There are plans to make another movie, yes. There are plans to make other movies. We’re in discussion with Disney about how we proceed. I personally don’t think it will be “College Musical.”

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about how the original cast members won’t be in the next movie so how will casting play a role?

BILL BORDEN: None of us have actually talked about four that much together, but we’ve been working so hard on three. Three was made in a very short time. We finished filming 14 weeks ago—maybe 15 weeks ago we finished filming the movie. To be honest, as the producer I haven’t even talked to Disney about four. We have a ways to go.

Q: For the sophomores, what was the audition process like?

JEMMA MCKENZIE-BROWN: I go to a drama school and most of the girls at my school auditioned. It was quite competitive. I had a first audition and then I got a call back and Kenny [Ortega] came over from America and that was a separate audition. He had me doing the coolest thing. I walked in and I didn’t know I had to do a dance and Kenny just told me to put some music on and improvise. He had me dancing against the mirrors and strutting around the room. Then I went to LA and met these guys. I had a three-day audition and got paired with Matt [Prokop] for much of the last day and then waited.

JUSTIN MARTIN: When I originally auditioned for the role before Kenny and all that, they told me I was too small to play in high school so I almost didn’t get the role. I came to the call back and I got paired up with these two and it was like a week of auditioning. It was like four days and each day a lot of people got cut. Out of a whole bunch of people we got picked so it was a humbling moment I think.

MATT PROKOP: Me and Justin pretty much had the same audition process except I’m a couple feet taller. It was definitely new to me because I have no singing or dancing background whatsoever. Just the opportunity to audition for “High School Musical” was a privilege for me. I was just looking at it like I’m going to go in and give it my all and have a great audition. Sure enough Kenny had faith in me and now I’m here.

BILL BORDEN: We kind of did the audition process like a Broadway chorus line where you bring a lot of people in and Kenny works with groups of like 50-60 people. In fact, in Utah I can’t remember. It was like 1500 people we auditioned.

KENNY ORTEGA: 3800 people.

BILL BORDEN: 3800 people. We brought them in in groups of 50-60 people and they danced. They rehearsed and they danced the dance. We started eliminating people like Broadway. We did the same with the actors. We read several hundred kids. We brought in a group of 50-60 and at the end of the day we basically had our cast. We did the same on two, but it took a little longer.

Q: Bill, you had a reality show going on at the same time. Can you talk about that? And when was that final video shot that’s cut into the end of the movie?

BILL BORDEN: The video that’s cut into the end of the movie was shot a few weeks ago, believe it or not. The reality show was actually put on by ABC. I was a bit tangential to it because I was making the movie. They did film the reality show in Salt Lake City where we were working. So I ran back and forth a little.

Q: Besides The shooting OF the movie, what is your favorite memory of being in Salt Lake CITY?

Corbin Bleu: Laker / Jazz game. That was fun. Getting to go, of course. We’re Lakers fans. The Jazz fans were wonderful to make us feel so welcome.

ZAC EFRON: We got court side seats.

Corbin Bleu: We did get court side seats. I remember I sported the Lakers jersey in the Jazz arena. They invited us on the stage and I got booed.

ZAC EFRON: We walked on the court and he was wearing, was it a Kobe jersey?

Corbin Bleu: It was a Kobe jersey.

ZAC EFRON: The Utah arena is known for being the loudest in the states. Corbin held up his hand and it was kind of awesome, but he got booed off the court.

CORBIN BLEU: What was great is that I actually got a chance to work with Magic Johnson and I also saw Sasha. They remembered it and they were like, “Man, thank you so much for sporting the jersey.” I was representing Laker proud.

BILL BORDEN: Justin is not a Lakers fan, but he’s still sitting with us.

JUSTIN MARTIN: I’m not a Kobe fan, but that’s not much of a difference because Kobe is kind of the whole team.

BILL BORDEN: It puts him in jeopardy for four.

Q: Zac and Corbin, are you registered to vote and are you endorsing a candidate?

ZAC EFRON: I am registered to vote and I’m going to encourage voting, but I’m not going to encourage anyone to vote for a particular candidate.

CORBIN BLEU: I am registered to vote and I’m a Barack Obama supporter.

Q: Zac, you had a scary fan encounter recently. How are you handling all of the fame?

ZAC EFRON: There was no scary fan encounter. I didn’t get touched. I don’t know exactly what happened. I kind of walked and got into a car. I had all my relatives calling me, “What happened, what happened?” It was blown out of proportion. I don’t recall.

Q: In general, how do you deal with the stardom?

ZAC EFRON: I’m having a good time.

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve taken away from this experience?

CORBIN BLEU: Wow, that is one of the most difficult questions just because it’s so broad. This has been three years of our life. If you were to ask anybody in this room—the past three years of your life to chose one specific moment especially with everything we’ve been through. We’ve traveled the world and have experienced all different types of cultures, we’ve met millions of people—it’s impossible to lump it into one specific moment. One thing I have said before is I don’t know if I can chose a specific moment from this, but I think at the end of my life I will be able to say that one of the best times of my life was when I was involved with “High School Musical.”

ZAC EFRON: Yeah, great friends and good movies. I’m very proud of everything we’ve accomplished.

Q: How about the new kids?

JUSTIN MARTIN: I think it was just the fact that we got to be the new kids coming into this whole situation and sort of learning the ropes from the people who have been doing it and made it so big. That was just an experience within itself.

JEMMA MCKENZIE-BROWN: I’d never been to America before my audition. The whole thing was just so surreal and I don’t think any of us can believe it’s happening right now.

MATT PROKOP: I’d have to say the friendships would be the one thing I took from it. We had 16 cast members and around 30 dancers all around the same ages. You wake up with all these friends and you go to work with your friends and come home with your friends. We really did become a family out that and that’s the one thing I miss the most.

Q: Did anyone take souvenirs home from the set?

BILL BORDEN: We ended up giving them away. Just the other day we were in the editing room together and I actually brought basketballs so the kids could sign them and keep things for themselves. Corbin said I don’t have anything from “High School Musical” 1, 2 or 3.

ZAC EFRON: I actually asked to keep one of Troy’s suits from the movie. Everyone is all, “No, no we’re really sorry, we might have re-shoots so we have to keep it.” I was like, “Alright, alright, that’s cool.” We walked into the El Capitan theatre and my suit was on a mannequin like please come touch the suit. It’s still sitting in there I’m sure.

BILL BORDEN: The thing that’s great is that Kenny and I obviously have a lot more experience than the younger actors—it’s so great to go to work everyday with your friends. We have fun together. We really do. After three years of working really hard together, we all like each other which is rare.

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